Printer Friendly

The United Nations and the quest for world peace.

A cynic comments that the United Nations exists so that nations, who are unable to do anything individually, can get together to decide that nothing can be done collectively. Someone famously said of Richard Wagner that his music is not as bad as it sounds. The same is true of the UN. It may not be a perfect organisation, yet there are many good people who are devoted to it, still. The reason for their faith in the world body is that it seeks to replace the balance of power with a community of power and represents the dream of a world ruled by reason. The world is a better place because it exists, because of what it does, and because of how it does them.

Violence is endemic in nature and human society. Wars between states have been an enduring but far from an endearing feature. It is an affront to modern sensibility. Looking at the pervasive, ubiquitous reality of interstate and intergroup armed violence, the question arises: how do we impress on conflict-inflamed consciousness the gulf between the goals sought, the price paid and the results gained?

Historically, peace was maintained by the great powers. The breakdown of the Concert of Europe system in 1914 and 1939 discredited the old balance-of-power system and visionary leaders began to look for alternatives in international organisations. Both with the League of Nations and the United Nations, people horrified by the destructiveness of modern wars decided to create institutions for avoiding a repetition of such catastrophes. An important step in the development of the antiwar norm was the Pact of Paris of 1928 which declared war to be illegal. The UN's establishment was the next important milestone on the journey to tame the use of force as a means of settling international quarrels.

The League began as the embodiment of humanity's aspirations for a better and safer world. The UN was closely modelled on the League, testimony to the fact that while the League had failed, people still had faith in the idea of an international organisation to oversee world peace and cooperation. The most important League legacy bequeathed to the UN was the concept, by now firmly entrenched but revolutionary one hundred years ago, that the community of nations has both the moral right and the legal competence to discuss and judge the use of force by states.

A hundred years ago, war was an accepted institution with distinctive rules, etiquette, norms and stable patterns of practices. In that Hobbesian world, the only protection against aggression was countervailing power, which increased both the cost of victory and the risk of failure. Since 1945, the UN has spawned a corpus of law to stigmatise aggression and create a robust norm against it. Now there are significant restrictions on the authority of states to use force either domestically or internationally. The UN incorporated the League proscription on the use of force for national objectives, but inserted the additional prescription to use force in support of international, that is UN, authority.

The nature of warfare has changed fundamentally since 1945. Instead of huge mechanised armies, today's wars are mostly fought with small arms and light weapons, between weak government forces and ill-trained rebels. In most contemporary conflicts, disease and malnutrition resulting from warfare kill far more people than missiles, bombs and bullets. There has also been a shift over time in where wars are being fought. More people are being killed in Africa's wars today than in the rest of the world combined. Moreover, violent conflicts in Africa exacerbate the very conditions that gave rise to them in the first place, creating a classic 'conflict trap' from which escape is difficult.

This article disaggregates the UN role of maintaining international peace and security into the separate elements of pacific settlement, collective security, peace operations, arms control and disarmament, legal adjudication, and peacebuilding. An effort is made to analyse the historical record in order to connect the past to the future and to demonstrate changes that might be required in the institutional machinery in order to enhance the UN's peace maintenance role.

Pacific Settlement

The trend towards narrowing the permissible range of unilateral resort to force by states has been matched by efforts to broaden the international instruments available to settle interstate disputes by peaceful means. The 2005 Human Security Report challenged many widely-held myths. By 2003, there were 40 percent fewer conflicts than in 1992. The deadliest (those with more than 1000 battle-deaths) fell by 80 percent. Nearly 700,000 people were killed in battle in 1950 in total; in 2002 the figure was 20,000. The average number of those killed per battle in 1950 was 38,000, plummeting to 600 in 2002. Genocides, international crises and military coups were also dramatically down. Over the past 30 years, on average, fewer than 1000 people a year have been killed by international terrorists: a fraction of those killed in warfare. The UN has played a critical role in driving these positive changes. Its efforts increased between fourfold to tenfold to stop wars starting (preventive diplomacy), end ongoing conflicts (peacemaking), mount peace operations and impose sanctions (which can help pressure warring parties into peace negotiations).

One of the most delicate forms of UN intervention is through the Secretary-General's good offices. This institutional point is likely to be the most active in pacific settlement in the foreseeable future. The political role of the Secretary-General was a novel phenomenon of post-1945 world politics. Article 99 of the Charter authorises him to bring to the attention of the Security Council 'any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security'. The carefully crafted language is instructive: any matter, without limitation; matter, not dispute or conflict; in his opinion, not in the judgment of others; may threaten, not actually threatening. Article 99 confers on the Secretary-General both a broad reservoir of authority and a wide margin of discretion requiring the exercise of political judgment, tact and integrity.

The pacific settlement of disputes under chapter 6 is potentially among the Secretary-General's most valuable political roles with respect both to conflict prevention and constructive collaboration. The Secretary-General is in regular contact with representatives of many governments, chief executives of international organisations and multinational corporations and civil society organisations. This multi-textured milieu of international relations provides the Secretary-General with many opportunities to probe and explain, test and tease, persuade and dissuade; to engage in diplomatic parlance but also to exercise ideational leadership. Quiet diplomacy within the confidential confines of the Secretary-General's private office can be supplemented or substituted by the occasional public diplomacy of the UN's bully pulpit.

But the Secretary-General cannot act in isolation from the shifting power structures of world politics. Rather, his exercise of international leadership is subject to the systemic and structural constraints of a unipolar world order whose bedrock organisational principle is state sovereignty. He must play a political role complementary to the Security Council and never in competition with it; respectful of the pivotal role of the Council in maintaining peace and security while mindful of the political temper in the General Assembly, which is the truer barometer of the sentiments of the international community. When the major powers and groups are bitterly divided, the Secretary-General must strive to forge a fragile agreement by identifying common elements, reminding member states of the Charter principles, nudging them towards face-saving formulations that can recreate a sense of common purpose and appealing for calm and unity.

The most important requirement for the Secretary-General is to exercise the skills of soft leadership: the elusive ability to make others connect emotionally and intellectually to a larger cause that transcends their immediate self-interest. Leadership consists of articulating a bold and noble vision for a community, establishing standards of achievement and conduct, explaining why they matter, and inspiring or coaxing others to adopt the agreed goals and benchmarks as their personal goals.

The method of selection and the terms of office undercut the prospects of those rare individuals who combine the qualities of inspirational, robust, effective and aspirational leadership. The Security Council vote on the Secretary-General's election is subject to veto. This immediately changes the thrust from selecting someone who commands the widest following to someone who is least unacceptable to the major powers. The procedure places a premium on a non-activist, pliant Secretary-General. The General Assembly should reclaim an active, not merely a reactive, role in the selection of the Secretary-General. With the current crisis over the chief of the International Monetary Fund, we have a fresh opportunity to change the modus operandi of choosing the chief executives of international organisations. If Europe and the United States agreed to a genuinely open recruitment process whereby the best person in the world was chosen as the president of the IMF and the World Bank, then we may be able to apply the same criterion to the choice of the next Secretary-General. But the developing countries are never going to agree to the idea that the World Bank and IMF chiefs should be the discretionary choice of the US and the EU respectively but the UN Secretary-General should be chosen form a worldwide pool.

Collective Security

Collective security entails the imposition of binding diplomatic, economic and military sanctions against international outlaws under chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Efforts to devise an operational collective security system have been thwarted by a fundamental tension in the concept. War between lesser states, however deplorable and unhealthy for their nationals, cannot endanger world peace. Collective security understood as the maintenance of international peace and security is therefore superfluous in respect of small states. Equally, however, it is impossible to enforce against major powers, since any attempt to launch military measures against a great power would bring about the very calamity that the system is designed to avoid, namely a world war.

The UN sought to avoid the latter eventuality by conferring permanent membership of the Security Council upon the great powers with the accompanying right of veto. The practical effect of the veto is that the virtually unlimited decision-making competence of the Council, necessary for the successful operation of a collective security system, is curtailed by the equally extensive decision-blocking competence of the P5.

The closest that the UN has come to engaging in collective enforcement action was in Korea in 1950. Yet its collective security character was heavily qualified. Action in Korea was made possible by a temporary marriage of convenience between UN-centred collective security and US-centred collective defence. As in Korea in the 1950s, the advantage of action by an UN-authorised multinational coalition in the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 was that it allowed the UN to approximate the achievement of collective security within a clear chain of command necessary for large-scale military operations. The cost was that both wars became identified with American policy, over which the organisation exercised little real control.

The decision by a US-led coalition to wage war on Iraq in 2003 without UN authorisation so split the international community that Secretary-General Kofi Annan assembled a group of 16 distinguished experts to forge a new consensus on the norms and laws governing the use of force in world affairs in relation to contemporary threats. Its report concluded that threats can come from state and nonstate actors and endanger human as well as national security. Collective security is necessary because today's threats cannot be contained within national boundaries, are interconnected and have to be addressed simultaneously at all levels. The panel endorsed UN-authorised but not unilateral preventive action. The UN will likely continue to remain engaged with a broad and broadening conception of security well beyond the traditional parameters of conventional military attack by uniformed soldiers across territorial borders.

Created from the ashes of the Second World War with the allies determined to prevent a repeat of Hitler's horrors, for most of its existence the UN has focussed much more on external aggression than internal mass killings. Yet Nazi Germany was guilty of both. Unlike aggression against other countries, the systematic and large-scale extermination of Jews utilising industrial-scale efficiency was a new horror. The convergence of the interests of human rights and humanitarian communities with respect to protecting victims of atrocity crimes has been given expression as the responsibility to protect. The protection of civilians caught in the crossfire of deadly conflict is now a key criterion of success for peace operations.

In 2005, world leaders unanimously agreed that every state has the responsibility to protect all people within its jurisdiction and that, where one was manifestly failing in its sovereign duty, the international community would take 'timely and decisive' collective action to honour the international responsibility to protect people against atrocities. The international responsibility applies narrowly to just four crimes: ethnic cleansing, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. But there are no limits to what can be done in responding to these atrocity crimes. On 17 March 2011, Security Council Resolution 1973 authorised the use of 'all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas' in Libya: the first UN-sanctioned combat operations since the 1991 Gulf War. Carefully crafted both to authorise and delimit the scope of intervention, it specified the purpose of military action as humanitarian protection but prohibited invading or occupying Libya.

On 30 March, in Resolution 1975 the Security Council authorised the UN peace operation in Cote d'Ivoire 'to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence'. The responsibility to protect and civilian protection agendas are complementary and mutually reinforcing. The first is mainly normative, the second is largely operational. The two share legal underpinnings, normative weight and Security Council commitments under human rights, international humanitarian and refugee laws. Civilian protection embraces all measures to protect the safety, dignity and integrity of all human beings, but only in times of war. The first part is thus considerably broader and less precise than the four specific acts under the responsibility to protect. But the latter is broader in being concerned with the prevention and protection of atrocity crimes in all circumstances, not merely during armed conflict. Protecting populations at risk of mass killings using coercive means in a non-permissive environment is its primary goal. For most peace operations, protecting civilians, in what has been negotiated to be a permissive environment but may have threatening components, is an implied or derivative goal, often a moral but not a mandated duty.

The two agendas converge during the commission of atrocity crimes. In Libya and Cote d'Ivoire, regimes that had lost both domestic and international legitimacy declared war on their own people. Global political responses to both were shaped by universal values rather than strategic interests, with member states mirroring traditional UN policy and perspectives. Because the UN is taking the lead in redefining sovereignty by aligning state prerogatives with the will and consent of the people, the ruling class of any country must now fear the risk and threat of international economic, criminal justice and military action if they violate global standards of conduct and cross UN red lines of behaviour.


The instrument of choice by the UN for engaging with the characteristic types of contemporary conflicts is peacekeeping, which evolved in the grey zone between pacific settlement and military enforcement. The number of operations increased dramatically after the end of the Cold War. Reflecting the changing nature of modern armed conflict, UN operations expanded also in the nature and scope of their missions. Many of the tenets of classical peacekeeping were realigned with the new political realities based on the Brahimi Report in 2000.

The need for UN peacekeeping remains and will continue. Today there are around 120,000 personnel from 115 countries serving in 15 UN peace operations around the world, at an annual cost of almost eight billion dollars. UN peace operations have to undertake tasks like military disengagement, demobilisation and cantonment; policing; human rights monitoring and enforcement; observation, organisation and conduct of elections; rehabilitation and repatriation; and temporary administration. Sometimes the UN had to undertake 'peace-enforcement' operations, at other times it authorised enforcement operations that were actually undertaken by a single power or ad hoc multilateral coalitions. In Kosovo and East Timor peace enforcement operations were preludes to transitional international administrations.

Modern peacekeeping demands a broad range of skills and competence, including innovation, initiative and integrity. Peacekeepers have to determine the application of relevant domestic, international humanitarian and human rights law to their conduct and operation. Civilian, police and military elements have to cooperate willingly and coordinate effectively with one another and with NGOs. They have to be adaptable as the focus changes from security in one mission to humanitarian assistance in another and peacebuilding in yet a third. All this and more must be done in harmony with professional colleagues in a truly multinational, multicultural and multilingual effort operating in highly localised and particularised theatres.

The Rand Corporation undertook a comparative assessment of UN and US experience in peace operations. The UN is better at low profile, small footprint operations where soft power assets of international legitimacy and local impartiality compensate for hard power deficit. The quality of UN peacekeeping troops, police officers and civilian administrators is more uneven and their arrival on the scene is often tardy. Multinational diversity can slow down the pace of decision-making in the UN system: its very strength, universality, is a major impediment to efficient and speedy action. But military reversals are less damaging for the UN because military force is not the source of its credibility, whereas they strike at the very heart of the basis of US influence. In order to overcome domestic scepticism for overseas missions, American policymakers define the mission grandly and make the operations hostage to their own rhetoric. UN missions are outcomes of highly negotiated, densely bureaucratic and much more circumspect documents.

UN operations tend to be undermanned and under-resourced, deploying small and weak forces into post-conflict situations under best-case assumptions. If the assumptions prove false, the forces are reinforced, withdrawn or rescued. Washington deploys US troops under worst-case assumptions with overwhelming force to establish a secure environment quickly. The total number of UN peacekeepers may be modest by the standards of American expeditionary capability but is more than any other country or coalition can field. UN missions have been the more successful--a higher proportion of local countries were left in peaceful and democratic conditions than with US operations.

The UN needs an effective peacekeeping capacity commensurate with the demands placed on it. It needs strategic reserves that can be deployed rapidly. The establishment of an interlocking system of peacekeeping capacities would enable it to work with regional organisations in predictable and reliable partnerships. There is also renewed interest in the idea of a small but robust and rapidly deployable UN ready reaction force that could be rushed to trouble spots and in humanitarian emergencies.

Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament

With the Charter signed just weeks before the first use of atomic weapons, the UN has been engaged with nuclear arms control and disarmament from the start. The very first General Assembly resolution called for the newly established UN Atomic Energy Commission to make proposals for the elimination of atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

The goal of containing the spread and enlargement of weapons and arms stockpiles has rested on three pillars: norms, treaties, and coercion. The momentum generated by the historic and favourable changes after the end of the Cold War was allowed to lapse. More and more countries began to bump against the nuclear weapons ceiling at the same time as the world energy crisis encouraged a move to nuclear energy. Nuclear arms control is back on the international agenda with a vengeance. The fourfold crisis arises from non-compliance with obligations of the NPT by some states engaged in undeclared nuclear activities; other states that have failed to honour their disarmament obligations; nuclear armed states that are not party to the NPT; and nonstate actors seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. In addition, we face dangers of weaponisation of outer space.

New momentum has been injected into the international nuclear debate over the last two years by agenda-setting statements and reports from the Obama administration, international panels and commissions including especially the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, the Washington Nuclear Security Summit, the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1887, the successful management of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the signing and ratification of the New START Treaty. But there is a real risk that the momentum will stall.

The NPT could be strengthened by making the IAEA Additional Protocol mandatory for all states parties, toughening up or even eliminating the exit clause and making clear that withdrawal from the NPT will be treated as a threat to peace and security. But these cannot be done without also addressing gaps on the disarmament side of the NPT and reform of the composition and procedures of the Security Council. The NPT contains a triangular linkage between verified nuclear nonproliferation, cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nuclear disarmament. The pursuit of nuclear nonproliferation is doomed without an accompanying duty to disarm. If nuclear weapons did not exist, they could not proliferate. Because they do exist, they will proliferate and be used again some day, whether by design, miscalculation, or accident. Although the prospect of a nuclear war between the five NPT nuclear weapons states has declined dramatically since the end of the Cold War, their chances of being used amidst the regional tensions in Northeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, as also by a terrorist group, have increased. Good luck is at least as responsible as sound stewardship for the non-use of nuclear weapons since 1945.

The UN's strengths and assets are research, advocacy, norm building and networking. It has established procedures and forums for sustaining annual debates and discourses, provides a rare channel for non-nuclear countries to network with one another and exert pressure on the nuclear holdouts, tries to coordinate global regimes and regional initiatives, and undertakes analytical, empirical and problem-solving research. Its weaknesses are cumbersome procedures easily captured by holdouts and recalcitrants to block any initiative, meagre resources devoted to what is said to be among the gravest threats to international security, and the most powerful enforcers of peace and security being the worst offenders in terms of military arsenals and sales.


I define peacebuilding as actions undertaken to consolidate peace and prevent violent conflicts from arising, intensifying (vertical proliferation), spreading to new theatres or actors (horizontal proliferation), persisting, or recurring. UN operations shifted over time from a linear sequence of transition from war to peace to an integrated approach to conflict prevention, conflict management and peacebuilding. In parallel with this, the Security Council broadened its understanding of threats to international peace and security to include such subjects as children in armed conflict, small arms, the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the role of natural resources in causing and prolonging conflict, pandemics like HIV/AIDS and, most recently, climate change.

'Peacebuilding' addresses both proximate and root causes of conflicts through direct and structural measures. The new Peacebuilding Commission aims to fill a critical gap in the institutional architecture for maintaining international peace and security. Its efficacy and authority will rest on the prestige of its membership: representatives from the Security Council, donors, troop contributors, ECOSOC and the General Assembly. Its work will be executed by country-specific committees whose membership will include the country recovering from conflict, other regional countries, major donors and troop contributors, relevant regional organisations and international financial institutions, and senior UN officials.

International Law and International Criminal Accountability

The law of the Charter governs when force may be used; international humanitarian law governs how force may be used. While the World Court deals with justice among states, the increasing attention and sensitivity to human rights abuses and humanitarian atrocities raise questions of individual criminal accountability in a world of sovereign states.

The world has made revolutionary advances in the criminalisation of domestic and international violence. The international community has responded to barbarism by drafting and adopting international legal instruments that ban it. Nuremberg and Tokyo were instances of victors' justice. Yet by historical standards, both tribunals were remarkable for giving defeated leaders the opportunity to defend their actions in a court of law instead of being dispatched for summary execution. The ad hoc tribunals of the 1990s were neither unqualified successes nor total failures. They helped to bring hope and justice to some victims, combat the impunity of some perpetrators and greatly enrich the jurisprudence of international criminal and humanitarian law. But they proved to be expensive and time-consuming and contributed little to sustainable national capacities for justice administration.

The International Criminal Court offers hope for a permanent reduction in the phenomenon of impunity. The landscape of international criminal justice has changed dramatically in a remarkably short period of time. In 1990, a tyrant could have been reasonably confident of the guarantee of sovereign impunity for his atrocities. Today, there is no guarantee of prosecution and accountability; but not a single brutish ruler can be confident of escaping international justice. The certainty of impunity is gone. The credit for the dramatic transformation of the international criminal landscape belongs mainly to the UN. Libya's Colonel Muammar Gadhafi is the latest but assuredly will not be the last head of state to feel the sting of ICC indictment.

Legality, Legitimacy and the Rule of Law

Progress towards the good international society requires that force be harnessed to authority. A gulf between lawful and legitimate use of force is evidence of an erosion of the sense of international community. Those who would challenge and overthrow the existing order must indicate which is their preferred alternative system of rules, including dispute resolution; simply rejecting an existing rule or norm, no matter how unsatisfactory or unjust, in order to overthrow a particular ruler, no matter how odious, is not enough.

Authority is the right to make policy and rules; power is the capacity to implement the policy and enforce the rules. Lack of enforcement capacity means that the UN remains an incomplete organisation, one that practices only parts of its Charter. Conversely, the US is global in reach and power but lacks international authority. To the extent that the material capacity to deploy and use force at various trouble spots around the world is concentrated in the US while the authority to do so is legally vested in the Security Council, the US--UN relationship will be the central dynamic shaping the UN role in and contribution to conflict resolution and management in the foreseeable future.

The thrust of the ongoing efforts to reform the UN is to make its structures and operations more efficient and legitimate in order to improve its performance and enhance its authority. The key executive decision-making body for underwriting international peace and security is the Security Council. If it remains essentially unreformed and unreconstructed, the rest of the reform effort will amount to mere tinkering and the UN will continue to suffer from a steady erosion of legitimacy and authority and gradually fade into irrelevance. Intriguingly, at a lecture at the UN University in Tokyo, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, President of the World Court, even put forward a rule of law argument for reforming the structure and procedures of the Security Council in terms of equality before the law and law that is publicly promulgated, independently adjudicated and impartially enforced.

A central challenge is how to combine the UN's unique legitimacy and international authority with US global reach and power. Some commentators pose the question as to why America should submit voluntarily to 'Gulliverisation', tied down by innumerable threads of international treaty and normative restraints, especially but not solely with respect to the use of force overseas. Have the structures and agreed procedures of multilateral forums become dangerously detached from the underlying distribution of power? Even if that were to be true to some extent, the Iraq War was a convincing demonstration that the diplomatic transaction costs of a complete withdrawal from multilateral forums, even for the United States, is a very high price to pay.

At the same time, the volatility and turbulence that swept through the organisation in the wake of the American--British invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a sobering reminder that laws and norms--and the institutions and organisations in which they are embedded--are not ends in themselves, but instruments to a better ordering of the world. Should they fail in this overarching goal, their members will look to alternatives.


Many of the world's most intractable problems are global in scope and will most likely require concerted multilateral action that is also global in its reach. But the policy authority for tackling them remains vested in states, and the competence to mobilise the resources needed for tackling them is also vested in states. This strategic disconnect goes some way to explaining the recurrent difficulties facing the UN and the fitful nature of many of its responses.

Over time, the chief threats to international security have come from violent eruptions of crises within states, while the goals of promoting human rights and democratic governance, protecting civilian victims of humanitarian atrocities, and punishing governmental perpetrators of mass crimes have become more important. As a major consequence of the changing nature and victims of armed conflict from soldiers to civilians, including through excess deaths caused by conflict-related disease and starvation, the need for clarity, consistency and reliability in the use of armed force for civilian protection lies at the heart of the UN's credibility in the maintenance of peace and security.

Some have argued that the UN Charter was written in another age for another world. Yet for many it is a living and breathing document that remains vitally relevant today. It is the framework within which the scattered and divided fragments of humanity come together to look for solutions without passports to problems that respect no passports. We must never fall victim to the soft bigotry of low expectations. Rather, we must always hold the organisation to the more exacting standards of exalted expectations.

The record shows a surprising UN capacity for policy innovation, conceptual advances, institutional adaptation and organisational learning. We have seen this with respect to peace operations, human security and human rights, atrocity crimes and international criminal justice, sanctions and the use of force, and the responsibility to protect innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire and victims of atrocity crimes. The vocabulary of democracy, good governance and human rights has steadily advanced to become the language of choice in international discourse.

Because human rights champion the rights and dignity of individual human beings, it is entirely fitting that the great champions of the human rights and international humanitarian law movements were such giants of individuals as Raphael Lemkin who helped to bring the Genocide Convention into being, Peter Benenson who founded Amnesty International, and Henri Dunant who started the Red Cross. Their examples demonstrate, very powerfully, that the chief impulse to human rights is the recognition that every human being is deserving of equal moral consideration. It is an acceptance of a duty of care by those ensconced in safety towards those in zones of danger. We are indeed our brother's keeper, all our brothers' and sisters' keepers around the world. The UN's normative mandates on security, development, human rights, civilian protection and the environment embody this powerful intuition.

While the causes of war are many and complex, the call to end it is single-minded and simple. Like terrorism, a war of choice is an unacceptable tactic no matter how just the cause and deserves to be similarly criminalised. Cynics insist that war is an inherent part of human society. To end war would indeed be to end history. Maybe. But so too have crime and poverty always been part of human history. Should we give up then on the fight to end crime and poverty? Confronted with a world they cannot change, reasonable people adapt their behaviour to reality. But the turning points in human history have come from the efforts of those unreasonable people--Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela among them--who set out to change the world instead. The long walk to freedom from war draws inspiration from this thought.

Prof. Dr. Ramesh Thakur is Director of the Centre for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, Australian National University, and Adjunct Professor in the Institute of Ethics, Governance and Law at Griffith University. He was formerly Senior Vice Rector of the United Nations University and a UN Assistant Secretary-General. He was a Responsibility to Protect Commissioner and the Principal Writer of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's 2002 reform report. His books include The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge University Press), Global Governance and the UN: An Unfinished Journey (Indiana University Press), The Responsibility to Protect: Norms, Laws and the Use of Force in International Politics (Routledge), and The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy (forthcoming).
COPYRIGHT 2011 Macedonian Information Centre
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Preventive Diplomacy ... Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Strategies, Mechanisms, Actors & Stakeholders
Author:Thakur, Ramesh
Publication:Crossroads Foreign Policy Journal
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jan 1, 2011
Previous Article:Democracy as a peace-building tool--case study: South Africa.
Next Article:The art of negotiation--reaching a mutually satisfactory solution.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters